702: A Handful of the Ocean: Two

by Commander Azalea Adams

...continued from part one


Jariel couldn't prevent an audible gasp of surprise, or the expression of shock from registering upon his face.

"Two years, outside the line?"

She nodded, closing her eyes. "I wasn't supposed to remember. Right after the resequencing I thought that they'd eradicated the memories. But now," she shuddered. "I remember every conversation, Camen. Every damned day. I can't remember the names and faces of all of the people that I worked with. A few, I remember entirely. The ones I was closest to. Felt the most attachment to."

"Such as?"

"Our young flight controller. The ship's First Officer."

"And you remember your Captain."

She didn't wish for Jariel to know just how vividly she remembered her Captain. "I remember him speaking, so very highly, of you."

Camen shrugged. "Did he tell you about the time I hit him?"

The hint of a smile flickered across her perfectly bowed lips. "Oh yes, I heard the story about the infamous destruction of Trick London's beautifully appointed bar."

She opened her eyes once more and tilted her head toward him. "He blamed himself completely for what happened that night. And I'll have you know he hasn't had a drop of alcohol to drink since."

"But I threw the first punch."

"He had it coming, after what he said to you." Adams insisted. "I'd have slugged him myself."

"Did he..." Camen didn't know quite what he wanted to ask now. "When he came back, was it..."

He needed to fill in the outline of the image he saw in his head when he imagined the reunion that Zanh and O'Sullivan had experienced.

He knew that he had never seen Liis quite as lost as she'd been after the memories had returned to her so suddenly, and he could only hope that she had found whatever it was she was looking for when Keiran returned to her.

"You have to know exactly what happened, Jariel, if you're ever going to understand what it meant to her to see him alive again. You have to comprehend the terrible, alternate future we'd seen. But it's not going to be an easy story to hear. Not for anyone who has ever cared about her. She...she went through hell."

"Yes, well." For once in his life, Jariel felt a sense of compassion for the suffering that he'd endured, himself. "She's not the only one."

*You've got that right.* Adams thought, for an instant, of her own ordeal as well. Pain and grief that she hadn't even realized the depths of until five minutes ago.

"I know that. That's why I feel so terrible, and why I owe you an apology," Azalea began to cry again. "If I'd realized who you were, if I'd remembered how close you have been to Zanh Liis, I never would have casually tossed out the news about her wedding that way. I would've...I don't know. Let someone you know tell you. Cristiane, or Samson. Someone you've served with."

Jariel couldn't help but laugh a little. "Those two? They would've rather marched straight into Hell itself than ever tell me such a thing."

"Still, I am sorry."

"You've no reason to be, Azalea, please." Jariel reassured. "I spent my whole life trying to do what has finally been done. I tried everything I could possibly think of to make Zanh Liis happy. So if you're telling me that she finally is, then I can do nothing except thank you for it. Don't you see?"

He gestured with an open palm toward the bed where Fleur lay, still mumbling in her fevered haze. "I have found what I've been seeking all my life, back here on Bajor. Highly ironic, since I always thought I had to go looking across the stars, chasing after it. No matter what I did, happiness eluded me. It was like trying to hold onto a handful of the ocean as the tide rolls out. Impossible. It just slips away, and no matter what you do, you can't contain it."

Again he took hold of her hand. "You gave me a great gift, the freedom to trust that Liis is going to be just fine without me, and the freedom to see that all I need, all I have ever really needed," he glanced again toward Fleur, "has been right in front of me for a very long time. I just couldn't see it."

Adams observed the way that he looked at Fleur and nodded. "Le Marc is crazy about you, that much is obvious."

"It's mutual." Jariel replied, without hesitation. "She is having a hard time believing that, because she's only known me to have such feelings for someone else. What she doesn't know is that the one gift the Sylph gave to me that I am grateful for is the knowledge of just how easy it would be to fall in love with her, and how hard it would be to prevent it." He inhaled and exhaled slowly.

"It will take some convincing to get her to believe I see a future for us. But I do and I did before you arrived with news of Zanh Liis' wedding. This is why I didn't want Fleur to find out about that yet. I don't want her to think that it factored in any way into my decision to pursue her for all that I'm worth."

"I don't believe," Adams smiled softly, "that it'll take as much convincing as you think."

"I hope that you're correct. Because I see that future so clearly, for her, and I..." he smiled affectionately at Tress, still playing contentedly at his side, "and this little one, if we can possibly arrange it. You see, I am, for the very first time in my life, entirely certain of what I want. What I want is a family of my own, Doctor, and I want Fleur and Tress to be that family."

Knowing that Jariel had grown up at the very orphanage where the crisis had been unfolding, she didn't doubt that family would be something that he would value above all else.

"But we've been talking about me, all this time." Jariel furrowed his brow and wagged a finger at her. "I would thank you to please take the topic back to what it is that is making Azalea Adams cry."

"I guess, I think that," she tried to articulate the swirl of emotions she was feeling, but found it as difficult to do as holding onto that fistful of water he had described before.

"I'm not entirely certain who I am, anymore. I'm missing large spans of memory, and what I do remember, isn't exactly the happiest story in the world."

"I'm sorry."

"Kind of you. But I've no right to complain. My life is nothing when it comes to what others have lived through. What you've lived through. People like-"

"Stop." Jariel shook his head, and his earring made a gentle, jingling noise. "Don't say it. No matter what example you offer to me, I won't accept your argument as valid. One person's suffering does not negate another's. Your experience is your experience, and it's the only one you've had. It is unique. For good, or ill. Just tell me," he searched her eyes for a long moment in silence.

If she'd been Bajoran, he'd have reached out and clamped a hand up to her ear to try to feel the strength, or lack of same, of her very soul before he spoke again. "What is it that you want, Azalea Adams?"

"I want to help people." She immediately offered her standard response to the question whenever she asked it of herself.

"A worthy career goal, to be sure. One that I can entirely relate to. Believe me, I have spent my whole life taking care of other people. But what I had to learn was, to truly do it effectively, I had to start taking care of myself. Making sure that I had what I needed. Gave some thought to what I wanted."

He lowered his voice to a reassuring, gentle whisper. "Ask yourself one question, even if you can't answer it for me. Will you try?"

She nodded.

"What is it that you want when you're all alone and no one else is there to take care of?"

His gaze was so intense, she couldn't bear to hold it. She dropped her head downward, and he placed a hand beneath her chin and encouraged her to look up.

"What is it that you see, Azalea Adams, the very last thing at night when you close your eyes before falling asleep?"

Her cheeks began to burn, and her hand instinctively flew up to touch each side of her face, one at a time. When he put the question to her that way, it became readily apparent to her exactly what it was that she wanted.

*I wanted him to take care of me. I was willing to stay there, lost in that abyss of non-linear time with him forever, if that was what it took for him to realize that she wasn't the only woman who had ever fallen in love with him.*

"Is it a place that you want to go?" Jariel pressed. "The face of someone that you care about? You can't have it if you don't admit to yourself that you want it."

She couldn't give him the answer he was seeking. There were no words with which she could explain that in this instant, she realized just who it was that she wished she could have.

It was the man she had listened to, comforted, counseled, and shored up those two years of non-linear time.

She was in something of a state of shock now.

She'd been so thrown by the experience of O'Sullivan's funeral as she'd lived it in the Paradox because of the Sylph, that her relief at seeing him alive had overridden her feelings of seeing him get what he'd wanted, at last.

Then the resequencing had, temporarily, prevented her from remembering. So much so that she had actually been able to be present, and smiling, at his wedding.

Sitting there, blissfully unaware of the pain to come as he married the woman he'd spent so long mourning; at times literally weeping over her on Azalea's shoulder.

She had consoled him every single time, at any and all hours of the day or night; even as she wished it would finally dawn on him how she felt about him and he would be able to let Zanh Liis go.

Only now, here on Bajor, with and strangely enough because of Jariel Camen of all people, had she accepted the truth.

"Tell me something, as a doctor." Jariel tried to reengage her, seeing that her attention had wandered far away. "Why exactly does memory resequencing fail?"

"You mean, in instances like his...where..." She avoided, Jariel noticed, speaking O'Sullivan's name again. "Where the memories just resurface as his did even before the Sylph intervened?"

"Yes." Jariel had a need to understand one thing, and that was why Liis had never remembered Keiran before the Sylph had forced her to.

"Well, there are two different kinds of memory," Adams informed him, rather clinically. "Memory of things we learn, say, from books, or schooling. Then there is emotional memory. Memories of things, places..." She swallowed hard. "People that we...form strong bonds with."

"People that we love."

She nodded. "We just don't understand the exact mechanisms at work, even after centuries of study of the brains of various species. We can't explain just why we remember what we do, and when. Believe me, Temporal Investigations has spent more time and Latinum trying to unlock the mystery than any other organization in...well, history as we know it."

"I believe you."

"We do know for certain that resequencing is most effective at the very beginning. The more times the procedure is carried out, the less effective it becomes." She said, trying to answer his question as best as she could.

"There are also cases where a memory is just so painful that the person blocks it out on their own, and that has nothing to do with the resequencing. With TI agents, well, we're all over the map. All kinds of odd things happen with resequencing. But time and again it seems we remember places or people, or don't, based upon our emotional attachment to or aversion of them.

"There's a psychiatric term for it, I'm sure you've heard it," Adams knew that while he didn't have a PhD, Jariel was well educated as a Vedek and counselor and that he'd recognize it. "...emotional valence."

His jaw was clenched, she observed, as he gestured for her to continue.

"There have been, oh, countless studies. One such suggests that the retrieval of information, or memories, is more effective when the emotional state at the time of retrieval is similar to the emotional state at the time of the event. The time the information was encoded into memory."

"So if someone...say...a Temporal Investigations agent, had feelings for someone that they had known, but forgotten due to resequencing and then met that person again,"

"They are much more likely to remember if they began to have those feelings again. That would be my theory, anyway." Adams shrugged.

She knew enough of O'Sullivan's history on the Sera, from the time he'd arrived there not remembering Zanh Liis to know that he admitted, himself, that the first time he'd set eyes on her in this timeline, he'd been attracted to her.

It was no surprise to her, that having actually been married to Zanh in the past, his memory encoding was just so strong that no amount of resequencing could prevent the memories from returning to the surface, sooner or later.

Adams had wondered, just as Jariel did, how it had been possible for Zanh to work with O'Sullivan for months without remembering.

All she could attribute it to was the fact that Zanh's 'set point' had been present on the ship.

Jariel had been there, and she had likely been so caught up in her life as she knew it that until the Sylph forced the issue, she simply didn't remember.

Or, it could have been so painful to remember Keiran that Zanh's mind simply refused to allow it.

"So...the answer is, that there is no real answer." Jariel sighed. Somehow, he had hoped for something more.

"I'm sorry that I can't tell you any more than that. I guess that when it comes to the brain, specifically the parts that control and retain our memories, the heart has a lot more to do with how it all works than is quantifiable."

He understood better than he could articulate.

"Can I ask you a question now? As a...chaplain-slash-counselor?"

"Of course."

"What if you figure out what it is that you want. Wanted." She slowly ran her hands up and down her sleeves. "...only after you also realize that you can't have it?"

He knew the vacant look in her eyes well enough to understand it without further elaboration. He had seen that look, staring back at him from the mirror on more occasions than he wanted to think about.

Occasions that had become fewer and farther between in the recent past.

Occasions that had ceased completely, since he understood how much he really felt for Fleur.

"Then, you have to promise yourself that you will find what you wanted another way. Something else, somewhere else..." he looked into her eyes with not only sincere sympathy but also deep understanding. "Someone else."

She blinked away biting tears, and chuckled softly. "I can see why you're the Sera's chaplain, and why everybody there misses you so much. You're good."

He lowered his eyes humbly. "I do what I can."

"You've done more than you'll ever know." She reached out and clasped her hand down onto his arm. "I...should check on Timal again. If you'll excuse me."

"Of course."

He watched her walk to the door, and turn back toward him just before exiting.

Slowly, she raised her open right hand to her mouth, touching it to her lips before moving it out and toward him, palm facing up.

[[Anytime.]] He signed back.

It occurred to him that she'd never given him the answer that he was seeking, about the specifics of the reunion between Zanh Liis and Keiran O'Sullivan.

It was only after she'd gone that he fully understood that perhaps, she had her own reasons for not wanting to discuss it.

Commander Azalea Adams
Starfleet Medical
Currently on Bajor